Janne L. Punski-Hoogervorst
Dutch MD passionate about Mental Health, Public Health & Human Rights

How did we stop caring about COVID?

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On March 20, Israel recorded it’s first COVID-19 death: the 88-year old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even Z”L. Only two days later, on March 24th, a second death is reported: the 67-year old beloved grandmother Malka Keva Z”L. From there on numbers go quickly: an 87-year old man, a 91-year old woman, an 83-year old man, an 89-year old woman. All dearly beloved individuals, greatly missed by those who are left behind, who often weren’t even able to say goodbye due to the isolation measures around those with confirmed coronavirus infections.

The Israeli media followed the developments of the cases steadily. Profile descriptions of those who were honoured in the media by their children, grandchildren, partners, appeared on the front pages of the (online) news platforms. Everyday, the numbers were reported. Demographic characteristics, brief health descriptions. We read it all. We were able to relate, to place a mental image with the name, to see behind the statistics.

But as the cases kept climbing during the current second wave, and the numbers of not only those infected but especially also those that passed away due to coronavirus, the personal notes disappeared. No more names, ages, locations. No more publishing tributes of their families on the national news. Numbers are staying numbers. The latest count: 909.

But even the numbers are disappearing from the front pages.

Simultaneous with this shift from personal tragedies to mere numbers, there is another shift going on in society: that from complete isolation and uttermost carefulness, to the idea that ”it’s been enough” and we all just want to and should live our lives. Fair enough. Living in these times is stressful, everyone longs for some human interaction, for the times before the global pandemic, which all seems so easy now. But by completely ignoring what’s going on, namely a global pandemic, nothing changes.

Especially in Israel, where there is such a strong feeling of togetherness. Of belonging. Of us. Why did we stop caring? About those who are so greatly missed by there families. Of those deaths that we might possibly have been able to prevent. We can’t change the course of what has happened in the last months, but we can take responsibility for some of the nearby future.

Thus, one last question remains. How can we show – as a society – that we actually DO still care?

Wear a mask.

Limit social contacts wherever and as much as possible.
Keep social distance.
Don’t feel well? Stay home.
Go into quarantine and get tested when you’ve been exposed to someone with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 infection.

And last but foremost: don’t be indifferent to the numbers. Each number represents one person. One life. One loved one. And each and every one of those numbers counts, and deserves to be counted. We have to all stand together, as one nation: עם אחד, לב אחד: Israel.

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About the Author
Dr Janne L. Punski-Hoogervorst is a Dutch-trained medical doctor with clinical experience working in mental health care, both in clinical and outreaching settings. She made Aliyah in April 2019, and currently conducts academic research in post-traumatic stress disorder. Her publications are aimed to spread awareness about public and mental health, as well as promote psychological health in a daily life context.
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